The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

The Color of Schooling: The Race-Making Project of Compulsory Schooling and its Educational Tracks of Violence

Pricila Rodriguez, University of California San Diego (United States)


Popular, progressive histories of compulsory primary and secondary schooling in the U.S. champion it as a democratic success that protected youth from child labor practices at the turn of the twentieth century. This history supports contemporary defenses of schooling as a social equalizer and engine of economic and social mobility. However, critical scholars of education argue that compulsory schooling was designed to discipline new generations into the established class structure, training children into the bodily habits and literacies of industrial and information-economy laborers. In The Color of Schooling, I build upon and depart from this critical tradition by arguing that compulsory schooling has been a fundamental institution in the U.S. for racial structuring, the contemporary evidence for which are deep and persistent racial disparities in outcomes for students. Racialized disparities in outcomes are not simply the effects of institutional failure or racialized resource inequalities upon the otherwise neutral institution of compulsory schooling; rather, compulsory schooling must itself be understood as a race-making endeavor that produces necessary and
expected racial disparities in outcomes. The Color of Schooling I argue that evidence of compulsory schooling’s negative effects on students of color is best understood by developing an historical lineage between generalized compulsory schooling and so-called Indian boarding schools, which removed Native youths from their families and tribal communities as part of the genocidal project of U.S. settler colonialism. Archival research of the Tucson Indian Boarding School reveals how these educational institutions and their pedagogical practices did not intend to develop self-sufficiency among the youth population, but rather, to develop and (re)produce an oppressed consciousness of the population. I turn to Paulo Freire’s work in Pedagogy of the Oppressed to excavate Freire’s underutilized theorization of the pedagogy of the oppressor, as a way to better comprehend the effects of U.S. racialization on compulsory schooling and the continual persistence of disparities in educational outcomes.
Keywords: compulsory schooling, race, (re)production of oppressed consciousness, disparities
in educational outcomes
• Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Bloomsbury Academic. 1970
• Guidotti-Hernandez, Nicole. Unspeakable Violence: Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries. Duke: Duke University Press. 2011
• Inoue, Asao. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. Anderson: Parlor Press. 2015

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